By Spectrum Staff - November 20, 2018

Andrés Worstell's poem "Ashtray Sermon" is featured in  Spectrum vol. 61. Order a copy here to read it and the fabulous work of all our contributors.


Q: What was your inspiration for “Ashtray Sermon?” How does relate to your own experiences?

If the road is your religion then a dimly lit fast-food joint just off the highway (preferably an Arby’s or a Dairy Queen) is your church; Mass held just after nightfall after a long day of driving and still miles before the promise of a bed, your only companions the voices on the FM and the headlights that disappear in the darkness as quickly as they appear. “Ashtray Sermon” comes from two different aspects of my life: first, my family moved around a bit when I was a kid which meant a good amount of time on the road. I was fortunate enough to grow up experiencing the USA through its truck stops, national monuments, tourist traps, navy bases and burgers. The other aspect I drew from was my time spent working late nights in fast-food (a Subway located at a Marine Corps Air Station to be exact, but that’s a story for another time.) There’s really nothing quite as American as the dull loneliness of consumer society, right? I liked the job ok, though.

Q: How long have you been writing poetry? What is your inspiration most often drawn from when you write?

I have been writing poetry since my senior year of high school. Prior to that, my experience had mostly been in writing lyrics for my punk band Stair Step Kids, which I find to be much easier to write than poetry. When writing lyrics I can fall back on the music to back up the writing, whereas in poetry the words are the music, essentially. When I write poetry I generally write down a series of images that stand out to me or phrases that I find to be interesting until I see some thematic cohesion or theme emerge--or not. Ultimately I tend to be drawn to the mundane aspects of life when I write poetry, as I enjoy describing the humanity within the monotony of existence.

Q: Do you also write prose and, if so, what? If not, why not?

Yes, I mostly write short stories and flash fiction, though I’m currently in the outlining stage for something longer--as is the cliché about writers. When writing poetry I enjoy playing with language and experimenting with style and structure. When writing prose I’m usually interested in conveying a narrative in some respect, though I do enjoy experimenting and tend to gravitate towards the mildly surreal (with a humanist bent,) in the vein of Aimee Bender or George Saunders. Which, I suppose those are two highly emulated writers right there, but hey, steal from the best right?

Q: You are a writing and literature student at UC Santa Barbara’s College of Creative Studies where Spectrum is produced. Why did you decide to major in Writing and Literature in CCS?

My goal for college coming out of high school was to continue to write work I would be proud of while being challenged by modes of writing and storytelling unfamiliar to me, so my work could evolve over time. I figured the Writing and Literature major in CCS would allow me to evolve in the way I desired. And, so far, this has proven true.

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